Pilgrims and strangers frequently need to sort out their location and direction. One form of the sorting process is the backward glance to gain perspective on the distance traveled. The Mennonite Brethren have a preoccupation in the 1970s with understanding their one hundred year old pilgrimage. Indicators of a renewed historical consciousness are the publications of the General Conference Board of Christian Literature. the creation of the General Conference Historical Commission and the emergence of archival and Mennonite Brethren study centers in Winnipeg, Hillsboro, and Fresno. While the focus is on understanding the historic experience, the dialogue is about the relationship between past and present.
The publication of John A. Toews, A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, in 1975, is the singular significant event of this historical renaissance. It is the first officially authorized history of the Mennonite Brethren written in the English language. While there have been numerous histories of the tradition, none other is as comprehensive or analytical as Toews. He is clearly the Dean of Mennonite Brethren history.
The Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies thought the publication of the book a significant occasion for further historical discussion and reflection. The essays in this book are the consequence. They were (with one exception) originally presented at the Symposium on Mennonite Brethren History held on the campus of the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, in May of 1975. They were one way to publicly acknowledge the significance of John A. Toews' work and simultaneously extend the dialogue about Mennonite Brethren history.